Most golf course owners would agree that there’s nothing like fully booked tee times. But it’s hard to book tee times if you don’t have golfers calling or landing on your website.
Some golf courses have a location or reputation that brings in golfers with nothing but a phone line. But for most golf course managers, you have to go out and market your course to get a solid roster of regular tee times.
I’ve consulted on search marketing for several local businesses large and small. I’ve also consulted for search marketing for one of the largest golf equipment retailers in the US. With that experience in mind, here are a few marketing ideas for golf courses.
Create City-Specific Website Pages
For golfers, regional searches are too big, “near me” searches aren’t quite right, but city searches can be just right.
That may sound obvious, but any golf courses still don’t try to lock down their local area.
It can be tedious, but having local pages that target different areas surrounding your actual location can be useful.
If you have a single apartment complex, create a neighborhood & next to your neighborhood pages to try to rank for “golf in [city]” searches.
Automate Tee Times + App Integration
There is an adage in retail that if you don’t have it, your customer can’t buy it. For golf courses, an analogous adage is that if you don’t have the tee time, you don’t have the customer.
There are dozens of golf course software providers. Find one that can automate and digitize your tee times if you haven’t already, and make sure that they feed into every popular app on the App Store.
Create Niche Amenity Pages
Lots of golfers have specific amenities and/or requirements that they want. Instead of listing your amenities in a giant list, make detailed pages about each amenity. Try to rank for searches like “golf course with [amenity]”.
You can use Google Suggest for ideas. Go to Google and type in “golf course with” and hit space, but not enter. You’ll see some suggestions.
You can do this with the entire alphabet and as many modifiers as you can think of.
Create pages that match those search queries to show up when people search.
If you want to take this to the next level, you can use a tool like SEMrush’s Keyword Explorer to provide phrase match search terms in bulk.
Create Local Data Pages
Create resource guides for people moving to your city. Create lots of them.
Use Google Autosuggest to understand what people are searching for in your city.
Develop Your Local Citations & Reviews
You should already have a Google My Business profile so that you can show up in Google Maps.
But you can take it to the next level to show up even more prominently.
First, you can build your Google My Business profile with photos, posts, and full listing details.
Second, go to every local business listing site and make sure that your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number match exactly. Whether it’s on the Yellow Pages, Yelp, or elsewhere – everything must match. These are called your “local citations” and Google uses them to confirm the relevance of local business.
You can use SEMrush’s Local Listing Management Tool to audit all these listings quickly.
Third, create a local review strategy. Having diverse, unique, and regular reviews on your Google My Business page is the number one way to get more views (aka lease applications) from Google Maps.
Steal Ideas from Large Local Competitors / Businesses
I’m not a fan of brainstorming. I think that it’s more effective to build off ideas that have already worked.
No matter your size, you can always look to larger competitors or larger businesses for inspiration.
With a golf course, make a list of local businesses that you *think* are being creative – including companies in different industries.
Like local listings and keywords, I then use a marketing tool like SEMrush to spy on those competitors. Type in the URL of a competitor below to see an example.
Here’s what you’ll see.
It looks like a lot. But drill down and categorize each link. You’ll quickly get a sense of what they are doing. You’ll see where they are posting on social media. You’ll see which media outlets have accepted press releases and what types of digital marketing they’re doing.
The trick here is *not* to copy cat them. Instead, take the general idea of what your competitors have done and make it your own – or, make it better.
For golf courses, you can even take local golf retailers or sporting good stores and try to dovetail off their efforts.
Work with Local Tourism Agencies
Every city, no matter how small, has an interest in tourism. And golf courses are a core part of any tourism package. Make yourself known with local tourism officials, websites, and guides. Too many “local” courses are missing out on a good TripAdvisor profile.
Find those and become a regular fixture.
That extra attention and those links will help every other idea on this list. Google loves links. Social media users find URLs via links.
Your city pages, amenity pages, and everything else on your website will benefit from more inbound links.
Use Hyper-Local Facebook Ads
A local business has one massive advantage against national brands trying to operate locally – you live in your city and understand it.
Facebook allows for hyper-local advertising. You can run ads that show within a radius of only a few miles. It’s tedious to set up, but it’s relevant and effective.
Learn how to create hyper-local targeting for demographics and geography to find lots of interested golfers.
You can run small, targeted campaigns that show multiple places at once.
Use Hyper-Local Google Search Ads
Google Search ads are famously effective and famously expensive. The best tenant is someone who searches for “golf courses in [city]”.
But that search click will be very costly.
But like Facebook, you have an “in” – Google Quality Score. Google will show ads higher if they are more relevant even if they don’t have the high bid.
Like Facebook, it’s tedious to set up, but if you can set up a hyper-local campaign, you’ll be able to get Google Search traffic that large competitors can’t bid on.
Use Hyper-Local Google Display Ads
Google’s Display Network also offers opportunities for local advertisers who are willing to put in the work.
Google serves banner & text ads on some of the best ad locations on the Internet. Many placements are expensive for bulk ad buys.
But again, Google would rather serve a relevant ad with a low bid than an irrelevant ad with a high bid. That’s your opportunity to set up a hyper-local campaign focused on specific demographics in a specific area.
List on Locally-Popular Golf Guides
Golfing websites are a dime a dozen. They will send traffic to your listing. But there are a ton of them.
The key is to find a few key apartment websites that are popular in your area – and focus on those.
List on NextDoor & Local Forums
NextDoor is one of many local social media websites & forums. They are hard to find and hard to join, representing an opportunity for any local, enterprising golf manager.
These networks are interesting because they are specifically local and extremely relevant for local businesses. They also run Groupon-style deals and local sponsorships with high engagement.
Advertise / Post on Golf Review Sites
Golf Course review sites are interesting because they not only send customers themselves, but they also feed reviews / ratings to local websites.
Do what you can to grow your presence there, especially if you attract a lot of tourists or new customers.
Develop an Interesting Instagram Feed
There are some businesses that don’t really belong on Instagram. But golf courses absolutely do belong. Golf courses are inherently scenic.
Work on developing an Instagram feed that is genuinely nice to scroll past. Spend some money commissioning 100 or so professional photos. Schedule those out for the next year on Instagram and balance them with specials or other local photography. Respond to comments and use local hashtags. Invite players to submit their own photos.
Develop an Email List w/ Tee Times
Capture emails with tee times. Use your email list appropriately to bring those players back and leave reviews.
Identify & Market Local Employers
Your customers are all working somewhere. Despite the decline in work-related golf outings, golf still makes for a great outing for acquaintances.
Identify all the largest employers & sources of potential customers nearby. Create resource pages for those employers (especially if they are large).
Create discounts, bonuses, etc. Get in touch with those employers to see if there is a way to collaborate.
Identify & Market Local Sports & Amenities
Take what you did with local employers and do the same with local amenities and resources like schools, colleges, associations, etc.
Create pages that act as resource hubs for neighborhood recreation opportunities.
Identify & Market Popular Referral Sources
Take previous & existing customers and try to understand where those customers came from and how they found you.
See if there is a way to build off that success.
Cross-Promote Sports Retailers
Sports retailers make a perfect match for local golf courses. Look for collaboration. Even if you technically compete with them via a pro shop, you have a lot more to gain from working with them than against.
Cross-Promote Local Businesses
Your customers will spend money nearby. Figure out what other businesses do well when you are packed. Offer a way to cross-promote, especially if they have multiple locations or a direct draw with customers (ie, a sit-down restaurant or resort facility).
Remember that even a simple link to your website from their website will dramatically help your other online efforts.
Use Tournaments To Get Social Media Attention
Events like tournaments, youth training, fundraisers, etc are a golf course staple. But events have a bonus effect online.
You can list them on multiple platforms to get extra exposure.
Facebook is the best place for this tactic, but it also works on Google, Instagram, and event apps like Meet and Four Square.
Use Video Tours To Hack Social Media
Like events, most social media gives preference to video in their feeds. Take interesting video tours of your course. Recruit drone enthusiasts and budding videographers with free access in exchange for promotion & free videos.
Post the file natively to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Pay a small budget to boost it. And look for opportunities to embed it on your website.
Use Digital Referral Fees for Word of Mouth
Referral fees are also a staple of golf course marketing. But they don’t get the same reach as digital referral codes.
Whether you use a simple bit.ly link, manually hand out custom codes (i.e., like raffle tickets), or use a software service – digital referral codes can help you move limited physical word of mouth to unlimited digital word of mouth.
Find & Sponsor Local Charities
Sponsoring local charities provides a few marketing benefits.
First, you can likely get a link to your website, which will help your other efforts.
Second, you can tap into a well-networked organization with lots of word of mouth potential.
Third, you can tap into neighborhood goodwill to help with soliciting reviews to help with your Google My Business efforts.
There are a lot of marketing ideas out there for golf course managers. You don’t have to do all of them. You just have to do one or two well.
Find the one that fits your interests & resources and give it a try. Learn based on your initial experience and improve.